Scientists have shown that access to nature is vital for our mental health and wellbeing. With our movement currently restricted, we need our gardens more than ever to step up and be our replacement countryside.
I want to share some ideas to help turn your garden into your own pocket of countryside bursting with life.
The good news is, many of the things you can do are completely free and really easy, because they involve doing absolutely nothing. So, for example…
- Don’t be too tidy – leave twigs and leaves on the ground for insects to live under or birds to use as nesting material.
- Don’t deadhead every flower – leave some to form berries or seedheads as these provide food.
- Make use of the prunings you can’t take to the tip at the moment and pile them up in a corner to make a hideaway home for creatures.
- Don’t cut your lawn. Long grass with a path mown through the middle can look really attractive and you’ll be amazed by the flowers that start to appear. If you’ve got the space, mow a network of paths and you’ve created your own wildflower meadow. No expense, no effort and great fun for kids to chase around and hide from each other. Or, if your lawn is needed as a football pitch, then even a tiny area left to grow long is better than nothing.
Every garden should contain water, ideally a wildlife-friendly pond with sloping sides. But if you haven’t got the space or materials to dig a pond at the moment, just use whatever containers you can find. An old Tupperware tub, an upturned dustbin lid, a tray, a bucket…. You want a few placed at different heights around the garden. Keep them topped up and you’ll be providing a vital drinking station for all sorts of visitors. (if you’re lucky, a beautiful damselfly, like the one pictured)
Call me boring, but watching birds happily splashing is one of life’s simple pleasures!
As well as water, it’s also important to provide a range of habitats. So, a tree, a hedge, climbers like ivy and honeysuckle, shrubs with berries, ground cover plants… If you search online, there are still wholesale nurseries open that are offering delivery on a range of plants. But with so many of us suffering with job and income insecurity, now is possibly not the time to be spending money on non-essentials. So put the big plans for new borders on hold and instead focus on getting a burst of colour into your garden by growing seeds.
You don’t need a greenhouse or green fingers. Wildflowers are really easy to grow and you can scatter them straight outside. If you buy one packet of mixed seeds, you’ll be getting great value for money because you’re getting a variety of plants that will flower in succession all the way through the summer and autumn. Not only that, you’ll attract a variety of pollinators too.
Many seed companies are low in stock though, due to the sudden increase in demand, so if you’re unable to get hold of seeds, why not contact your local community on social media and ask if anyone is willing to swap some seeds for something else. Maybe a toilet roll?! We might be physically distant at the moment, but let’s not be socially distant too. Let’s reach out and support each other and share what we can.
Many plants need lifting and dividing at this time of year. So from one plant, you get lots of smaller plants, often too many to use in your own garden. Why not pot them up and leave them on the doorsteps of people less fortunate? Likewise with cuttings. Lavender and mint, for example, grow easily from cuttings and will happily grow in a pot on someone’s balcony or window sill. That one small act of kindness could make a big difference to the wellbeing of somebody stuck inside with no garden. And we shouldn’t underestimate the positive effects that giving to others can have on our own wellbeing too.
Finally, please, please don’t use pesticides or slug pellets. If we learn one thing from this pandemic, it should be that we need to start treating Mother Nature with respect and stop using and abusing the planet. If you live in harmony with the wildlife in your garden and grow a variety of plants, then the good guys will eat enough of the bad guys to keep everything in healthy balance.
If you’ve found this helpful and you’re interested in finding out more tips and advice, please do look me up on Facebook and like my page, The Wimborne Wildlife Gardener. You’ll also find my contact details there if you’d like to get in touch with any questions or to arrange for me to come and work in your garden when all this is over.
In the meantime, look after your wildlife, look after your wellbeing and happy gardening.